Is Social Media Right For Every Business?

A great man once said, “Do or do not; there is no try.” 

Fine, it wasn’t a great man, but when Yoda said that now-classic line in The Empire Strikes Back, many a geek (myself included) nodded our heads as if it were the common-sense wisdom of the Dalai Lama. In fact, the concept of “trying” something without having a true strategy or direct outcome in mind is becoming a much more sensible approach to Digital Marketing channels. This is especially true with the varied world of Social Media, where channels and platforms like Twitter and Facebook roam wild with Chat Roulette and Wikipedia. One person’s video of six dogs chasing a gazelle with 80 million views is equally layered against an audio podcast that focuses on the best burger joints in Montreal. (No joke. Check out The Montreal Burger Report).

Is there room for businesses and brands in all this random content?

Of course there is. One of the primary reasons that businesses struggle to understand the world of Social Media is that it is often compared with one particular traditional media channel, instead of being seen as a healthy ecosystem where a bricks and mortar brand (and this includes products and services with a business-to-consumer or business-to-business focus) can create and do things with content (text, images, audio and video) across multiple areas with varying degrees of impact and audience.

PodCamp could well have been wrong.

Last week, close to 400 business professionals, hobbyists, media hackers and others with an interest in Social Media spent the weekend at UQAM listening to many different types of presentations (like Revenue Generating Trends for Bloggers, Going Against the Grain with Niche Podcasts, and Your Web Content: Forever or Fragile?) at PodCamp Montreal. What originally started as an unconference (a self-organized get-together where the content and flow of the day is organized and led by all participants), PodCamp Montreal has blossomed into a full-blown, two-day professional conference with sessions in English and French. (PodCamps happen all over the world – just do a search for one in your area).

As someone who has participated in and helped organize these types of unconferences over the years, it was surprising to hear many speakers say: “Social Media is not right for every business.”

The explanation given was that some companies simply don’t have the wherewithal. They don’t have the bandwidth, budget, resources, people, experience or the right attitude. It’s as if everything has to align like the stars to get into this very complex media mix. That kind of back and forth is a huge misconception. It’s usually done so that a company hires any one of these many consultants/speakers to pay them to do the work.

The truth is, asking, “Are social media right for my company?” is a flawed question. Instead, ask yourself: “Should my business be sharing who we are and what we do with the world?” If the answer isn’t yes, feel free to pick up the computer or mobile device that you’re reading this on and whack yourself upside the head until you realize the answer is always yes!

That’s why you’re in business: so more and more customers can find you, buy from you and tell everyone that they know how great you are.

This flawed thinking that Social Media are not for everyone happens because many of these self-anointed experts focus on only two areas of Social Media:

  1. Whatever platform is most popular (like Facebook and Twitter).
  2. The notion that Social Media are all about the “conversation” taking place online about you, your competitors and/or the industry you serve.

Those are both valid spaces to play in, but they’re not even close to the only ones or the reason to get involved in the first place.

What makes Social Media (or any other type of media) truly “social” is the ability to share. Whether that is done on an internal basis with your employees or publicly (or both), sharing is the best place to start. Share everything there is for people to know about you (news, articles, white papers, your thoughts, etc.). Share beyond your own hallowed digital walls (your website) and push that information into the channels where people who might be looking for what you have to offer frequent.

Share and share alike.

Optimizing your site so it can be found on search engines is important, but don’t forget YouTube is actually the second-largest search engine (after Google) and people are doing all kinds of searches within their online social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and beyond. They’re scanning the industry blogs and podcasts to see who is saying what about whom. The more you make your content findable, the more findable you become – everywhere.

Once you begin to benefit from this, you’ll begin to see the many additional options that are available – from tools that can help you to better collaborate both internally and by leveraging the wisdom of your crowd, to listening to the existing feedback and dialogue surrounding your brand. All this public content is there. It can help you better analyze your market position, what customers really think about you and your competitors, and it can even provide indications as to how you can improve and innovate.

Social Media is for every business… that’s just stupid.

What if you sell toilet paper? Are Social Media still right for your business? Charmin released an iPhone app called, Sit or Squat, which allows you to locate, rate, comment on and even add the whereabouts of a clean public toilet. The feature-rich application also allows you to narrow your search to bathrooms that have a baby-changing station (as one of many examples). This crowd-sourced initiative has been downloaded millions of times and – as someone who travels as frequently as I do – has a special place on the first home page of my iPhone. Charmin is enabling and empowering people like you and me to share with the intent of having a better bathroom experience (with the hope you’ll consider buying Charmin toilet paper as you make your way through your grocer’s aisle).

If Charmin can make toilet paper social, what’s got you all blocked up?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:


The End Of Big Website Builds

If you thought fragmentation was changing the way a brand buys media, just wait until you see what it’s going to do to the Digital Marketing space.

Are the days of big websites and long website builds numbered? It could well be. If you think about how people find and connect to most brands, it’s not just through a search engine anymore. In fact, more and more people are having their first brand interaction on their mobile device. There are many people who are also connecting to brands for the first time in spaces like Twitter, Facebookand YouTube.

Does this mean that the website is going the way of the dodo bird?

Not exactly, but it does mean that the overall Digital Marketing strategy is going to change dramatically in the next little while. Instead of one, big and centralized website with many digital marketing outposts in the appropriate platforms, it is more than likely that we’re going to see more and more brands create multiple spaces and platforms to ensure that they’re connecting with the right people in the right communities.

Imagine a world…

Where a Digital Marketing strategy focuses less on one big website and more on creating engaging "things" like iPhone apps, a mobile website, a Facebook page along with a Blog (or whatever), and it’s all supported with a simple website that acts more like a hub for all of the other spokes. Yes, there are some (only a few) brands already playing with creating Facebook pages in lieu of micro-sites for promotions and experiential marketing initiatives, but it has not become a commonplace activity where you find a brand doing multiple things in multiple channels and focusing less on driving consumers to their marketing-riddled jargony websites.

It becomes a more complex Digital Marketing play.

The "game" used to be about always driving people back to your own, controlled, website, and the truth is that the more vibrant community for a brand may be happening more through a mobile app or online social network platform… or something else or something in addition to it. Does this mean we need to trim websites back to WordPress Blog-shaped platforms or micro-site sizes? Not really, but it does mean that if a brand’s vibrant community is happening in a place like Facebook, they won’t have much control or ownership over the content, but they might be able to do things (in terms of connecting and growing that community) that they could not scale to with a big, towering website of their own.

This is just further proof that the conversations are everywhere (and maybe not where we always want them to be).

THE BUSINESS TREE

I love business analogies. Connecting familiar, yet very different, concepts helps to bring about greater understanding to complicated topics. For example, I compare my marketing services of “Second Opinions” to that of a doctor. I’ve also compared the growth problems Starbucks is having to that of a garden needing weeding and pruning before it can achieve healthy growth again.

A credit union I know uses an interesting analogy to describe how they prep for future growth of opening new branches by saying, “Before we put up branches, we put down roots.” In other words, they lay down a foundation of community involvement long before they build a new branch of their credit union.

Interestingly, at the time I heard that branches/roots line, I was reading THE BUSINESS TREE written by Hank Moore. In this book, Hank makes the analogy of growing a business to growing a tree.

It’s a smart perspective and perfect for inclusion in my on-going series of business book summaries in less than 300 words.

The End Of Big Website Builds

If you thought fragmentation was changing the way a brand buys media, just wait until you see what it’s going to do to the Digital Marketing space.

Are the days of big websites and long website builds numbered? It could well be. If you think about how people find and connect to most brands, it’s not just through a search engine anymore. In fact, more and more people are having their first brand interaction on their mobile device. There are many people who are also connecting to brands for the first time in spaces like Twitter, Facebookand YouTube.

Does this mean that the website is going the way of the dodo bird?

Not exactly, but it does mean that the overall Digital Marketing strategy is going to change dramatically in the next little while. Instead of one, big and centralized website with many digital marketing outposts in the appropriate platforms, it is more than likely that we’re going to see more and more brands create multiple spaces and platforms to ensure that they’re connecting with the right people in the right communities.

Imagine a world…

Where a Digital Marketing strategy focuses less on one big website and more on creating engaging "things" like iPhone apps, a mobile website, a Facebook page along with a Blog (or whatever), and it’s all supported with a simple website that acts more like a hub for all of the other spokes. Yes, there are some (only a few) brands already playing with creating Facebook pages in lieu of micro-sites for promotions and experiential marketing initiatives, but it has not become a commonplace activity where you find a brand doing multiple things in multiple channels and focusing less on driving consumers to their marketing-riddled jargony websites.

It becomes a more complex Digital Marketing play.

The "game" used to be about always driving people back to your own, controlled, website, and the truth is that the more vibrant community for a brand may be happening more through a mobile app or online social network platform… or something else or something in addition to it. Does this mean we need to trim websites back to WordPress Blog-shaped platforms or micro-site sizes? Not really, but it does mean that if a brand’s vibrant community is happening in a place like Facebook, they won’t have much control or ownership over the content, but they might be able to do things (in terms of connecting and growing that community) that they could not scale to with a big, towering website of their own.

This is just further proof that the conversations are everywhere (and maybe not where we always want them to be).